Last season, the Washington Wizards captured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference by going 43-39 in the regular season. They then dropped their opening-round playoff series in six games against the Toronto Raptors.
Since the Wizards went 49-33 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2017, it was a disappointing campaign for John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the squad.
However, this season, the Wizards should be an improved team.
Wall, Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky will all be back. All of them played major roles on last year’s club. Washington also signed center Dwight Howard and forward Jeff Green in free agency after trading away Marcin Gortat for guard Austin Rivers.
The Wizards also selected athletic wing Troy Brown Jr. out of Oregon University with the 15th overall pick in the 2018 Draft.
Since LeBron James is now in the Western Conference and will therefore end his run of eight-straight Eastern Conference titles, it is seemingly up for grabs. On paper, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are the early favorites, but Wall made it clear that the Wizards will be in the hunt.
A wide open race
“Everybody is going to put Boston No. 1, because that’s what you’re supposed to," Wall said, per Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports. "They had a hell of a season with those guys coming back. You’ve got Philly, they got their pieces. I feel like those top four, those top five — you can’t forget Milwaukee, what they have with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] — I feel like it’s all cluttered. I put us right there.”
Overall, the point guard is skeptical about how the other teams will mesh.
“On paper, everybody looks great,” Wall admitted. “We look great. Boston looks great on paper. But how are all those young guys going to mesh with Kyrie [Irving] being back? Or Gordon Hayward being back? Nobody knows how that’s going to work. Now, they’ve got a hell of a coach in Brad Stevens, and [with GM and president] Danny Ainge, they’re going to figure it out. But you still got to put it all together. You’ve still got to make it work on the court. We don’t know how Kawhi is going to work. We know what Simmons and Embiid are going to give you, but it’s a new year.”
Overall, he feels like everyone has the same odds.
“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall noted. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys [Joel] Embiid, [Ben] Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar [DeRozan], they still get Kawhi [Leonard]. Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing."
He continued, "I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round, or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”
Although no one is talking about them right now, the Wizards have a solid shot to improve on last year’s record and could certainly emerge as a contender in the East now that LeBron is out west.